Interview by Miriam Cadoni
For Germany‘s Heavy Stoner Bluescore High Fighter, their second album “Champain” represent a further musical development. If their debut “Scars and Crosses” – that was released back in 2016 via Svart Records, it was much more focused on their doom and stoner side, their second full-length marks a swift change to their metallic and brutal side. Let’s learn more about it in this extensive interview with the energetic singer, Mona Miluski.
Hi dear Mona, how are you and how life is treating you?
Hello my dear Miriam, actually I’m doing ok. At the moment life could be worst because we have our album coming out on Friday, we have coming up some tour dates this summer and it’s started too, so, life could be worst [laughs]. I think the world has way more problems than mine at that moment but life is doing great, yeah. It’s ok.
I would like to start with a retrospective question, you know, I like speaking about the past with you and you are really confident to speak about it so in hindsight, which is the lesson that life has taught you about the split-up of your former band A Million Miles?
Sure, I mean, I think nowadays that everything that happens for a reason and sometimes it takes a few years until you find your place. I’ve always enjoyed my time in A Million Miles and we had some great time together as a band and I’ve learned so much about being in a band, especially as a woman. Also, I’ve learned a lot about my voice too, however, I finally found the home and my right place with people who are really close to me and I really share the same vision and the same sense of humor. High Fighter became a family for me and it’s also, music-wise, I think I found my place. Sometimes things happened for a reason, sometimes a door shuts but another one opens and you get the opportunity to meet other people and if we wouldn’t have parted ways, I would never meet the guys in High Fighter and I’m so so glad that I did ‘cos nowadays this is my home and my peaceful place. I was really depressive about it and my whole ground which I was standing on was completely broken and I totally fall down after the band’s split-up because that band was totally my life and today, I’m really glad that things happened otherwise I wouldn’t be in that band I’m today so everything that happens for a reason.
Now, getting back to our present days, High Fighter‘s comeback album is called “Champain” and it will be released by Argonauta Records. With some order, would you like to shed some light on the album’s genesis?
In general, “Champain” is way heavier and brutal than anything we have done before. I feel this record is more focused and it’s following a central theme. We have just tried to go into a heavier direction but it was never a decision of the band, it was a really natural flow when we started to write the first songs. We felt really good with that heavier and brutal direction, my guys on the instrumental side they build me up ground to try out more of my vocal range from clean to death, screams, and growls. So, on this record, we had a lot of freedom to show a various side of High Fighter and I really appreciate this freedom that we have in our music ‘cos when we started, we always been a kind of exotic band and we mix so many styles like stoner, blues, doom, metal, and sludge. So many genres, so many styles that we combine in one mix. Today, this is a benefit for us because we started by mixing styles and now, we really feel comfortable to focus on central themes. On this record, it’s the heavier direction of High Fighter that we want to share and we feel good with. When you think about the word “Champain”, of course, the first thing you can refer to is the drink [laughs]. Actually, we are a huge fan of beer and we never drink champaign. But lyrically wise, this record tells a story about an anti-hero and a champion; like ‘champ’ that struggles with a lot of ‘pain’ and maybe it’s about you, me and lots of people who maybe read this article. I think lots of people in this world can relate to it, it’s about an anti-hero which is always falling down on life; it may be because of depression, it may be because this person is disappointed by human relationship who got disappointed and got fall down by other people. Like a hero who everything is ok in life, you know, the job, the family and the friends are great but you came back home you feel this inner emptiness that consequently, make you feel so alone even though you are surrounded by great people and you cannot even describe why you are feeling this emptiness; you have seen the black hole in front of you and maybe you get panic attacks to be surrounded by this people. Of course, you can relate to it but everyone has a different story or a different experience. On top of all, everyone has its own story which can relate to and every one has its own reason why he’s standing that huge black hole and personally speaking, I was also struggling with depression and I was literally disappointed by human relationships. I was so much trusting and believing in these relationships that at the end I end up quite disappointed by life in general. Actually, I got more and more pissed about it, I got desperate and almost very angry about it because I thought “Why me? Why it always happens me?”, “Am I not lovable?”, “Am I not good enough?” to deserve luck and happiness. So, that anti-hero or that champion on this record, he gets the power and the strength out of his very sads and tragic situation to move on. So, “Champain” is about power and weakness, it’s about struggling in life but getting the power out of it because he’s always struggling and he gets so much power out of it to always move on. On top of all, it’s about strength and a lot of pain.
I’m happy that there are artists like you that expose themselves in the first person and speak about that problems because at the end of the day, it’s daily life and it should be regarded as normal. You know, we aren’t perfect machines…
Exactly, I would openly call me myself a happy depressive person. I’m m not always depressed, I’m not running through life and everything sucks but I feel these moments when I’m surrounded by good people. Everything in my life could be ok then you always these moments where you don’t know why but you experience an inner emptiness and did experience this many, many times in my life. Even if, you look at people faces’ while they are laughing and pretending to be happy there’s so much more in the back behind the scenes, you know. I definitely think that my music is the way to express myself and in a way, it’s also saving my life and I’m glad that I can speak about it in my music. Also, everyone should really talk about it, not if in public but at least try to find the right person that you trust and that helps you, who is always at your side and someone who you can speak about it. Remember, you are not a freak because you suffer from depression, I think the world that surrounds us can be a huge freak but not yourself, you know.
If “Scars and Crosses” was released by Svart Records, now “Champain” get published by Argonauta Records. How did you manage to get in contact with them and sign a deal with a prestigious label?
Yeah, first of all, we are grateful that Svart Records because they are really prestigious label and allowed us to release our first album but when we wrote the first song and we were almost ready for the studio, we were talking to Svart Records and we told them: “Hey guys, the new album is really brutal, it’s such a pissed-off metal record” and in the end, it’s brutal metal record and we felt that maybe it wasn’t the right label for us anymore. Because Svart Records, it’s really specific and they do like a lot of psychedelic, electronic, avant-garde stuff and folklore music too. So, we offer them to go and leave because we wanted to be with a record label which really represents more sludge and doom, black metal bands too. We felt like now we are more into that home now. Actually, we know Gero from Argonauta Records since a few years because we once played a show with his band Varego in Italy. Subsequent to that event, we stayed in touch and we talked with Gero because he owns one of the labels that can really represent everything High Fighter has on this upcoming new record. A bit of stoner, a bit of metal, a bit of black metal and a bit of sludge, so we talked with him and he was on fire right from the first moment [laughs] maybe because it fits so well together? You have to think also that in a way we represent the label’s taste and sound’s catalog. We are already a great team and he’s really supportive, passionated at the same time he’s really professional. And, this is really important because you cannot work only with a fan but also, you need to work with a professional setup which includes having also a network and a great distribution. He’s really really a good guy, so, we totally trust him and we are really happy that we split from Svart in a good way, at the end of the day, it was a mutual decision and we are really happy to be part of the Argonauta‘s roster.
“Champain” features a special collaboration with Downfall of Gaia‘s Anton Lisovoj on the song “When We Suffer”. How had this partnership born?
We met for the first time the guys in Downfall of Gaia‘s a few years ago when we toured with them and Conan in Europe. During the first seconds that High Fighter met these guys, we started being instantly best friends [laughs]. It’s was like love has blossomed, consequently, the first hour we spent in the bath, in the van together we were like family. And, we are still closed friends with them, actually, Anton is living here in Hamburg now and after that tour, he became my best friend. My absolutely and closest best friend, it’s a very close and intense relationship but aside from being friends, we are fans of his band too. Downfall of Gaia is one of the best black metal band out there and his vocal tone is quite particular. By now, it’s well-known that Downfall of Gaia includes in their line-up 3 singers and when Anton sings live on stage, he gives me the goosebumps. He has such a mean, devilish voice. Though it was the first time that High Fighter thought to have a guest musician and we were wondering for a long time who could it be and it was my idea to propose Anton. And everyone was excited about it, we were so stoked that he accepted our offer because if we generally consider the album, “When We Suffer” is the ballad of the album. It’s not that heavier but it’s ironic that one of the best black metal vocalists is singing one of the softer songs of the album. Anton‘s voice enhances a very special vibe but the song is also really personal to me. It deals with the darkest moments and hours of in a depression, I’m also really grateful that Anton has always been on my side in the last few years as my best friend, he really helped during the darkest moments of my life. So, I’m quite grateful that he’s on that record and especially, on that song: it’s a perfect match. We feel so happy how it did turn out. By the way, there’s a lyric video too and I consider this song special because besides to be the first song on which High Fighter features a guest, in addition, we have shared our lyrics for the first time. We never did it before.
For being such a young band, you have already toured a lot. Generally, how life on the road has impacted on the band harmony/relationship? Because it’s important even that at the end of the day…
Yes, it is. Actually, it’s really important and it’s the best time for us to be on the road. We really learned to be a family while being on the road and life has also impacted our sound. We know each other 200% and life on the road has impacted on how to love ourselves within the band. So, being out on the road, for us, it’s also the best time for us sound-wise and human-wise, we always enjoy it. We’re not a difficult band to deal with, on the contrary, we are quite laid-back: over the years we slept on several floors [laughs], we get along with the other bands and promoters quite easily. We’re very uncomplicated, on top of all, it does make it easier and cool for us to focus on the good time while we are on the road and not always being too much serious about everything. We don’t have a great light show, we don’t have our sound engineer, we love to drink and party on the road. We’re just some easygoing dudettes and dude that enjoy their time on the road. We feel lucky to visit so many places, to visit cities in which would never be there before, to share our energy and special vibes with people every night on stage. So, we always enjoy it and try to make the most out of it. Naturally, being on tour means being together 24/7 and you learn a lot about the other bandmates but I definitely know that I can totally trust them.
If for “Scars and Crosses” you worked with Jens Siefert at the RAMA Studios in Mannheim, for this upcoming album you chose to work with Jan Oberg at the Hidden Planet Studios in Berlin, what did you learn from this experience and what did change from the last time?
Well, the thing that both records have in common is that we recorded the instrumentals live in one room but for “Champain”, we chose to work with different people too because of its new heavier musical direction. In addition, we wanted to try a new team around us, also a different artwork and sound engineer. Of course, we are friend with Jan Oberg for a long time because he plays in the band Earth Ship and we toured a few years ago with his band too. Consequently, we became close friends and we have been following his work since then. He’s also a great producer and he has currently produced his own band and Downfall of Gaia too. The latest album by Earth Ship, “Resonant Sun”, sounded really massive and despite being friend with him, we’re really interested to work with someone else. At the end of the day, we chose Jan and we did enjoy a lot this experience in his studio. He owns it and it’s such a nice place, also during our recording he was able to give up some creative input. In a way, he’s responsible for a few of the many highlights of this record and without him, maybe these highlights wouldn’t be there on the records as they are now. So, it was a really relaxing time with a very chilled guy but he’s really creative and productive. We are very stocked of the album’s outcome and it was definitely the perfect match.
Moreover, I know that were previously published two other singles, which they are “Before I Disappear” and “Dead Gift”. Which kind of insights you can share about these particular two songs?
“Before I Disappear” was the first single we have released a couple of years ago and it’s also the album-opening track. In my opinion, this song has everything that the whole record represents. It has the doom, it has the heavier beats, it has the sludge and even metal parts too. Additionally, it has the clean and melodic side of High Fighter and it’s one of my favorites too. Instead, about “Dead Gift”, which is the second single from this record, it has undoubtedly the heavier section of the new record and it starts with heavy screams. By releasing these three singles, we wanted to show our different musical palette but at the same time, they do perfectly represent our sound. So, if you listen to these three singles, you will know what to expect from the whole record.
What 2019 has in store for High Fighter in terms of touring and publications?
Well, we are about to play this summer a few festivals shows like Sonic Blast Festival in Moledo, Portugal and we are really looking forward to being there because, I think, it’s one of the best festivals in Europe. We have already been there back in 2015, right when the band started its own activity. After that, we come back and we begin a tour with Dopethrone mainly in Germany but one show in France. We’re really looking forward to touring with them and to meet them too. Naturally, we already working on several more dates during this year because live performances are our natural habitat and we want to play more this year and hopefully, all over Europe once again.
Are you planning to come even in The Netherlands?
Yes, we are receiving a lot of request from the Dutch fans. Unfortunately, there is any confirmed show yet but I really hope we can make it happen. We didn’t play The Netherlands pretty often in the past, we have just played in Tilburg the last time. Once again, we really hope we can make it happen. We would love to play Amsterdam or Rotterdam and all these great cities. For us, it doesn’t matter if they are small towns or huge cities but we’re just working on it.
So, Mona, we’re almost at the end and with please be free to say hi to your fans and our readers. Thank you so much for this interview.
Miriam, thank you so much and for being so much supportive but I want to shout out some important and personal point of views: I think that female-fronted bands is not a genre and Femme Metal Webzine is maybe the only female-fronted focus magazine that I like to talk to because you also attempt to represent different styles and bands. It’s a very important issue for me and for my band, we don’t play female-fronted shows and we don’t perceive as a female-fronted metal band. We just wanted to be a band and I hope in the future and also, in the present, that someday media will stop focus on separating two genders because shouldn’t be distinguished by that. I’m not a fan of that female-fronted genre but I really do appreciate Femme Metal Webzine as the only magazine in that field. But, please, people, it’s 2019, let us enjoy music no matter you come from and what sexuality you have and what gender you have. It’s not important at all and let’s be tolerant to the male bands too! [laughs]
Photos by Basti Grim